Government today announced a revamped management structure at the troubled Barbados Water Authority (BWA) as it unveiled a new emergency short-term strategy to ease the water crisis facing the country.
The plan includes the immediate introduction of a Rapid Response Unit within the BWA and the availability of water tanks to the first 500 residents in the worst affected communities.
In making the announcements during a news conference at his Graeme Hall, St Michael office, Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick disclosed that the new focus of the state-owned waterworks agency would be on customer services, communication and timely interventions as stipulated by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC).
“The days of ruptured mains taking the Barbados Water Authority days to respond must be a thing of the past as we move into the FTC regulations,” Dr Estwick said, adding that the state agency would face financial penalties for not making timely connections or re-connections, or not repairing broken mains within a specified period. The new unit, he announced, should therefore help to resolve those problems now being experienced by consumers.
“That unit would be responsible for rapidly responding to outages due to infrastructural failure that result in loss of service to customers. It will have responsibility for communication with the public. It will have responsibility for employing water tankers, it will have responsibility for the deploying and filling of community tanks,” the minister stressed.
Dr Estwick added that the unit would also be tasked with engaging customers, as well as inventory and the engineering department.
He said he was confident that the new unit, along with additional water tankers, would accelerate the filling of community tanks and service St Joseph, St Peter, St John, St Andrew and St Thomas, which have been experiencing prolonged water outages.
The minister said Barbados could no longer rely on rainfall and ground water as the main source of potable water, and he advised consumers to install water storage tanks on their premises.
He said Government had engaged two private operators to make such tanks available to residents of the affected areas in the first instances, and later to all Barbadians, on hire purchase.
“The working proposal is that a complete 600 gallon tank with a pump and fittings will be made available to you at a nominal charge for over five-year period. A tank this size will last the average family for four to five days. The tank will be connected with regular plumbing and during periods of outages,
will be filled by Barbados Water Authority tankers.
“With the 14 tankers now under the management of the Rapid Response Unit there should not be a problem,” Dr Estwick explained, adding that it would cost Government approximately $5 million and that those who a means test found could not afford the tanks would receive assistance through the Welfare Department.
Meanwhile, senior representatives of Water Management of the Caribbean (WMC), who in February this year conducted an assessment of a portion of this island’s non-revenue water as a pilot project in some areas of Christ Church, told today’s news conference that the 3,343 service connections surveyed were losing 16.4 litres of water per second.
However, they said after repairs were done to 27 of the 32 connections that were found to have leaks, the losses dropped to 5.65 litres per second, representing 144,443 gallons per day or 52.7 million gallons per year.
WMC’s Consortium Project Manager Dave Tomlinson said if the BWA were to replicate the pilot across the island, it could save 1.6 billion gallons of water per year.
He also disclosed that the water company had accepted the recommendations to start duplicating by the end of this year and that the project would run over an eight-year period.